The Telegram: Chapter 1

Carrying on from last week’s preface, here’s Chapter 1 of The Telegram.

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London, November 1940

It was dark by the time they reached The White Hart. Blackout curtains had been stretched tightly across the windows but the full moon rather destroyed the effect, Lilian thought, glancing behind her where Big Ben was clearly illuminated against the night sky.

“Ready?” said a voice beside her.

She turned and Alan grinned at her, his blue-grey uniform almost sepia in the shadows. For a moment she was reminded of the faded photograph of her Uncle Will, lost in the Great War.

She shivered and hurried inside. It was Roy who spied her first. He had clearly come straight from work, his crumpled brown suit matching the pub’s drab upholstery. From a table by the fireplace, he raised his pint in welcome. Trust Enid to stake the best spot in the house.

“I need a drink before I face the inquisition,” Alan murmured.

By the inquisition, he meant Enid. Roy was alright. More than alright, Lilian thought, as she moved over to greet her sister and brother-in-law. It was Roy who had pulled the bureaucratic strings that would allow her to join Enid as a nurse at Chesbrook. As Alan arrived with drinks, Roy rose to shake hands.

“A pleasure to finally meet you, sir. Lilian tells me you’re with the RAF?”

“That’s right,” Lilian said slipping her arm through Alan’s. “Alan was in the Battle of Britain.”

“Indeed?” Roy squinted at the silver wings pinned to Alan’s breast. “Becoming a pilot was a childhood ambition of mine but unfortunately…” his voice trailed away as he looked down at the spectacle case in his hands.

“Churchill popped into Roy’s office today, didn’t he, darling?” Enid leaned across the table.

Lilian bit back a retort. Why did everything have to be a competition with Enid? Before Roy could reply, a familiar wail whined across the city. Enid slapped her drink down on the table.

“Well, that’s just typical!”

Down in the basement, Lilian squeezed onto a bench beside Alan. He pulled his coat around her shoulders, but he needn’t have bothered. Her face was already as red as the inebriated patrons around her.

There was a loud explosion somewhere nearby and Lilian was sprinkled with plaster. Coughing, she buried her face in Alan’s coat.

***

When she opened her eyes, she realised it was the silence that had woken her. Turning her head, she caught Alan watching her, his eyes soft.

“There’s something I was going to do at The White Hart, Lil. Only thing is, I’m not sure if it’s still standing.”

She opened her mouth, but he gripped her hand.

“I don’t know if my luck will run out, but if it does I don’t want to go without…Will you marry me, Lil? Next time I get leave?”

The all-clear siren sounded above. Over his shoulder she saw that Enid had woken, cracked lips parting in a smile. Lilian smiled back before turning to Alan.

“I’d marry you this minute if I could,” she whispered.

***

Chapter 2 of 10 to follow next week.

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